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Ladies who learn

Businesses focus on teaching women skills in an environment where attendees can ask questions and not feel intimidated

It started last summer, when a co-worker of Kate Chambers asked the lifelong soccer enthusiast to take her and a group of seven other women from the office out on the field for a day of soccer instruction.

The afternoon was well received by all, and Chambers and Miranda Liu, one of the participants, decided to leverage the event’s success into a small business.

Broad Skills was created to offer ladies-only classes to teach women practical skills in a welcoming and relaxing environment.

“It’s all about having fun and getting out there,” said Liu.

The courses range from the practical to the fun and social.

The first incarnation was a sold-out scotch and whisky tasting. Other offerings in the pipeline include car maintenance, a poker night and barbecue basics.

“All of our events are focused on one skill or subject,” said Chambers, “and these are things that women don’t always have access to or don’t generally gravitate toward.”

For the scotch tasting, Broad Skills partnered with Legacy Liquor and House Wine.

Chambers noted, “Our goal is to partner with local businesses and professionals, with the idea that they have the expertise that we don’t have in each field. They can provide the knowledge and we can provide them a class full of women who could potentially be new customers.”

Michaela Morris of House Wine said she has seen a greater trend toward women gathering together to learn something new. She and her partner Michelle Bouffard do private and public wine tastings for a variety of clients, including a recent women’s book club event.

“There are a lot of women out there with disposable income who have that extra bit of money to spend on something like this, and they make the decision to take part in a workshop rather than get together at a restaurant,” said Morris.

Partnering with local businesses can also reduce overhead costs.

Liu and Chambers, who work in marketing at Live Nation, said it can be difficult to balance their day jobs with their new venture.

“But we know that we have to be respectful of our time at the office. You have to put in the effort outside hours. For example, today we had a meeting before coming to work to really hash some stuff out, and we’ll meet on the weekends and do our own stuff in the evenings whenever we can.”

The company was launched in July after many late-night meetings and a lot of research, which found nothing similar being offered in Vancouver. The launch was accompanied by a massive social media blitz that included Twitter and Facebook.

Chambers said, “With the social media aspect we want to create a conversation and let people approach us and say, ‘We’d love to learn about this,’ and then we can dig up a venue and an instructor and make it happen.”

For Financial Divas founder Kelly Landry, these relationships are paramount.Her company, which offers money-related workshops for women, started just as organically as did Broad Skills. It grew from a preliminary course for wives of clients into a company providing financial knowledge to 40 communities throughout B.C. and Alberta.

In each community, Financial Diva invites one financial adviser, one realtor, one mortgage broker and various businesswomen to sponsor its programs, and they have waitlists of women wanting to sponsor a workshop.

She believes these women and their businesses have a strong desire to give back to the community and relies on them offering their time and expertise.

“Women want to make informed decisions and the more information they have the better informed decisions they can make,” said Landry. “They’re seeking this information and if you can provide it in a way that’s fun and has a lot of positive energy and isn’t selling them something, they feel in control of the decisions that they have to make.” •